1 review

Leaving Before the Rains Come
by Alexandra Fuller

Published: 2015-01-22
Hardcover : 272 pages
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New York Times Bestseller

"One of the gutsiest memoirs I've ever read. And the writing--oh my god the writing." --Entertainment Weekly

A child of the Rhodesian wars and daughter of two deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. But the disintegration of Fuller’s ...
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New York Times Bestseller

"One of the gutsiest memoirs I've ever read. And the writing--oh my god the writing." --Entertainment Weekly

A child of the Rhodesian wars and daughter of two deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. But the disintegration of Fuller’s own marriage leaves her shattered. Looking to pick up the pieces of her life, she finally confronts the tough questions about her past, about the American man she married, and about the family she left behind in Africa. A breathtaking achievement, Leaving Before the Rains Come is a memoir of such grace and intelligence, filled with such wit and courage, that it could only have been written by Alexandra Fuller.

Leaving Before the Rains Come begins with the dreadful first years of the American financial crisis when Fuller’s delicate balance—between American pragmatism and African fatalism, the linchpin of her unorthodox marriage—irrevocably fails. Recalling her unusual courtship in Zambia—elephant attacks on the first date, sick with malaria on the wedding day—Fuller struggles to understand her younger self as she overcomes her current misfortunes. Fuller soon realizes what is missing from her life is something that was always there: the brash and uncompromising ways of her father, the man who warned his daughter that "the problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live." Fuller’s father—"Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode" as he first introduced himself to his future wife—was a man who regretted nothing and wanted less, even after fighting harder and losing more than most men could bear.

Leaving Before the Rains Come showcases Fuller at the peak of her abilities, threading panoramic vistas with her deepest revelations as a fully grown woman and mother. Fuller reveals how, after spending a lifetime fearfully waiting for someone to show up and save her, she discovered that, in the end, we all simply have to save ourselves.

An unforgettable book, Leaving Before the Rains Come is a story of sorrow grounded in the tragic grandeur and rueful joy only to be found in Fuller’s Africa.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2015: The key to a great memoir may be less in the story it tells than in the voice and eye of the storyteller. In Leaving Before the Rains Come, Alexandra Fuller’s third memoir (she also wrote two other books of nonfiction), the author confirms what readers of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight detected on first reading of that debut: Fuller belongs in the pantheon of great memoirists, right alongside Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, and Frank McCourt. Not unlike those writers, Fuller has a single trope – hers is a childhood spent as a British expat on a farm in revolution-torn southern Africa – that she uses over and over to define and clarify her life The title expression, for example, is a south Africanism for “get out while you can,” and throughout this heartfelt book, she uses experiences, images and memories from her twenty years in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, and from the people she knew there, to illustrate more contemporary and local places and states of mind. Here, the focus is on the men in her life – for one, her heavy-drinking, plain-talking, fatalistic father who says thing like “Those who talk the most, usually have the least to say.” The other is Charlie, her now-ex-husband, an American mainline Philadelphia neo-cowboy who seems at first to be the perfect strong-and-sensitive type, all pragmatism to her barely controlled (but charming) chaos. While the book is ostensibly about their union, and its ultimate dissolution, it is also about memory and childhood and nature and modern life. Charlie and “Bobo” (Fuller’s family nickname, though she is sometimes also called “Al”) live together through elephant attacks (on their first date), malaria (on their wedding day) and relocation (from the wilds of Africa to the tamer wilds of Wyoming) but it is a more prosaic disaster that fells them: the real estate crash of 2008. What exactly went on emotionally between Charlie and Bobo is never fully explained – if you asked her, I’d bet she’d say that’s because she is still trying to figure it out – but the chords of loss she strikes resonate loudly and universally. Still, this is not a depressing book, thanks largely to Fuller’s winsome wit (she thought “mainline Philadelphia” meant that Charlie’s people were heroin addicts who happened to live in Pennsylvania) and unabashed admissions: she had nine novels rejected by publishers before figuring out she should write nonfiction. It’s hard to imagine there’s much more for Fuller to say about her life – and yet, I might have said that after the last memoir. Somehow, always, she finds another thread to weave into another masterpiece. --Sara Nelson


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  "More than a memoir of a marriage"by Cyndee K. (see profile) 10/09/15

Alexandra Fuller has crafted another insightful non-fiction story of her life and her relationship with her husband. But her story is also one of her coming to grips with who she is at the level of her... (read more)

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